Wanna Know the Secret to Motivation: Train, Don’t Workout

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Here’s a question I received via Facebook from a strength coach based in Ireland that, once I actually answered it, thought would make for a good blog post:

Q:  Got a question for you.  A few of my guys have asked me to write about motivation and how to stay motivated to train.  This can be such a personal issue that I thought I’d ask a few people who I know and respect to give me their opinions on motivation.

A:  As someone who has been in this industry for coming up on a decade now – and likewise, as someone who has participated in sports and been involved with some form of fitness all his life (I got my first cement weight set when I was 13) – I’ve often been asked, “dude, what keeps you motivated to train?”

A few things, in no particular order:

Hot chicks.  I think for many, at the end of the day, deep down, we stay motivated to train because we want members of the opposite sex to want to hang out with us.  Pretty basic.

But more specifically, actually having a purpose to train is really the meat and potatoes.

Notice I said train, and not “workout.”  Far too often, at least in my experience, people tend to workout and not train. What’s the difference, you ask?  Well, people who workout just kind of show up and go through the motions, and don’t really have a set plan or rationale for why they showed up that day.

These are the ones who do a few arm circles here, a few lat pulldowns there, pound their Gatorade (because we all know how draining walking on the treadmill while watching Dr. Oz can be), hop on the ab crunch machine, and call it a day.

As a result, they basically do what they always do, and what they’re good at, and not coincidentally, look exactly the same now as they did three years ago.  Which is to say fat, weak, and really frustrated.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone – but for 90% of trainees, 90% if the time, it most certainly does.

Taking it a little further, people who workout also tend to be the ones who flip flop from one program to another seemingly on a weekly basis.  One week they went to focus on fat loss; the next they want to dabble in MMA (LOL); the following they’re going to give intermittent fasting a try; only to top that off by deciding they want to train for a powerlifting meet that’s next weekend.

If this describes you, is it really that surprising you’re not getting any results?

Conversely, someone who TRAINS has a sense of purpose and conviction.  They have a PLAN; or better yet, a goal. They arrive to the gym on a mission and don’t waste any time pitter puttering around trying to figure what they should do that day.

In a way, there’s a sense of “I’m here to wreck some shit, everyone get out of my way, because I’m going to make Susie ElipitcalTrainer and Jonny McBenchEveryday destroy the back of their pants.”

That in of itself is all the motivation one should need.

Simply put – pick a goal for yourself.  I don’t care if it’s to lose ten lbs by the end of the month or to squat 300 lbs by the end of summer.  Just have SOMETHING to train for.  It makes all the difference in the world when you actually have a purpose for why you’re heading to the gym everyday.

Likewise, when dicussing the topic of motivation, making a concerted effort to train around like-minded people is an often overlooked component.  It’s no wonder people aren’t getting any stronger or lack motivation to train when they’re surrounded by others who complain when the air conditioning is off and think 50 lb dumbbells are too heavy.

Even if it’s only once per week, make an effort to train in an environment that encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone and breeds “stop being a pussy” (no offense to any ladies that may be reading).

Seriously (boobies) it makes all the difference in the world.  I remember back in 2005-2006 when both Eric Cressey and myself would drive 45-60 minutes (both ways), 2-3 times per week, to train at South Side Gym in Stratford, CT (it’s no longer there, unfortunately).   Friday afternoon traffic would suck pond water, and I’d literally contemplate driving my car off a cliff, but it was well worth it when we’d walk in and see 8-10 dudes setting up for max-effort bench night.  You couldn’t beat the atmosphere – dudes, chalk, rusty barbells, sacrificial goat, angry music, it was awesome.

Every time I left, I’d feel like I got stronger.  And, I did, because I was training with people who were a lot (A LOT) stronger than myself.

Moreover, when in the right environment, how could you not get fired up after watching something like this:

The video above was taken the other day at our facility – dude is a freak (and only a sophomore in college).

it’s totally worth the extra 15-60 minute drive it will take to train at another facility.  Just think of how glorious it will be to perform your deadlift day without some Zumba class going on in the background! Sure it’s a pain to have to travel, and spend more money on gas, but it may be all you need to light a fire underneath your ass, and actually not suck.

Okay, you don’t really suck, but you know what I’m trying to say.  Training around people who will not only push you, but get royally pissed if you blow them off will be all the motivation you need.

Do you have any thoughts or words of wisdom with regards to how you stay motivated to train?  It doesn’t necessarily have to pertain to getting stronger, it can be anything – I don’t care.  Share them below!

And, do me a favor and click the “like” button, because, you know, this was an awesome blog post, and more people need to read it!


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Comments for This Entry

  • Pete Johnson

    I stay motivated for myself first and foremost. Also, being a personal trainer, I see many trainers in commercial gyms and gyms in general way overweight and trying to tell others (their clients), how to correctly stay in shape. How can you possibly do that if you dont practice what you preach. I look forward to reading your blogs everyday man. Keep it up

    August 4, 2011 at 6:33 am | Reply to this comment

  • Frey

    That sumo dl video is nice! The weight goes up really easy for that kid, too. He must have some sick coaching

    August 4, 2011 at 6:42 am | Reply to this comment

  • Katie

    Tony, I totally agree with making the extra effort to train at another facility. I've loved coming to work out at CP the past couple of weekends! P.S. Pretty sure I've never felt my adductor muscles so sore in my life from this program you've written me. Seriously, thank you Tony! :)

    August 4, 2011 at 7:09 am | Reply to this comment

  • Steve

    "I'm here to wreck some shit, everyone get out of my way, because I'm going to make Susie ElipitcalTrainer and Jonny McBenchEveryday destroy the back of their pants." That should be a T-Shirt! Great post Tony.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:28 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dana

    My friend and training partner and I have talked about the difference -- she says when you're working out you'll skip a session, but when you're training you never do. So true! We've been in training for a powerlifting meet that's later this month, and when that's done we'll go back to training for another one that's not till Feb., but we can still be working toward it.

    August 4, 2011 at 8:14 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kiele

    Love this post Tony! Thank you for motivating, inspiring and telling it like it is!

    August 4, 2011 at 11:37 am | Reply to this comment

  • Deb

    I read this, went downstairs into my office parking lot, grabbed by gym bag and decided to run the stairs in my building. thanks for this post!

    August 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Juliet

    I think you absolutely hit the nail on the head... having a measurable goal you *really* want makes all the difference in the world. I want to be a tank next time I step on stage: if I start skipping workouts, each session bailed on is an edge I'm giving my competition. For those not competing even, bailing just puts you one step in the wrong direction from your goal. PS. That kid's deadlift is ridiculous.

    August 4, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Reply to this comment

  • R Smith

    Tony, I banished "workout" from my vocabulary in late 2009, replacing it with "training." Best decision I ever made. Like you mention, many of us are motivated to impress chicks, though, as one of your readers mentioned a while back, guys MAINLY want/need to impress other dudes. For me, it has to be about WAY more than impressing girls to get me to foam roll, do mobility drills, then lift heavy shit off the floor. Ain't gon' happen. My motivation is getting stronger, knowing I'm better every day, in some way, each time I leave the gym. And for me, getting stronger, as Cressey says, fixes most of the other issues. My philososphy is "I'll never be the biggest or have a chest that can cut glass; but no one will outwork me and no one is more committed to doing shit correctly in the gym." And I carry that attitude into the gym each morning, even if it's just to do mobility drills. Regarding environment: Amazing what a diference it makes. I joined a powerlifting gym in 2010 and on the first visit learned/experienced more than I would have in a year at my usual gym. Training environment is the missing element for many of us.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Pete Johnson - you make a VERY solid point. Staying motivated FOR YOURSELF is a huge component. I know I talk about hot chicks all the time, and I assume people realize I'm being facetious (kinda), but when all is said and done, I train (and stay motivated) for me first and foremost. Always. Well said my friend. @ Frey: yeah, you could say that........;o) @ Katie: glad to hear you've enjoyed your introduction to CP thus far! Only more to come, hope you're prepared!

    August 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Steve: I'll give you permission to get that done. Just make sure to send me one! @ Dana: thanks for chiming in, and well said! Good luck with the powerlifting meet - let us know how you did. @ Deb: rock on! @ Juliet: agreed. I think the missing link for most trainees out there is the fact that they just don't have a goal to train for. As I noted, they just kind of "show up." While admirable, it's not going to guarantee results. @ Ronell: You, sir, are my hero.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jason

    Tony, It is amazing what a difference environment makes!! Training at CP for the past month (including hurling after the prowler pushes!) has given me a renewed viogor and attitude to carry with me with my training in the commercial gym. Afterall, gyms are not a library if you dont like someone bringing a whole lot of nasty to the place hit up your GPS i'm sure there is a plantet fitness nearby!

    August 5, 2011 at 7:01 am | Reply to this comment

  • Darne Ridgley

    So true in all things in life. Being on purpose makes all the difference.

    August 7, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Kara

    I love this article and it is soooo true! I am training for a figure competition right now and have spent the last couple months driving 40 mins one way at 4:30am 2-3 times a week to work out with Luka Hocevar. He is one of the best and I have learned a ton from him in not just how to train for myself but also how to train other people. Keeps me motivated for sure!

    August 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sparhawk

    This was an epic blog. Seriously (boobies)

    August 10, 2011 at 9:31 am | Reply to this comment

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